Taking the ‘Blank’ Out of Politics: Murray Rothbard on Political and Local Reform during the Progressive Era

21 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2018

Date Written: July 13, 2018


A vital part of urban progressivism, as shall be seen further below, was a frenetic attack on the ‘corruption’ of politicians . . . (Rothbard 2017, 285).

The Progressive Era, written by Murray Rothbard and edited by the present writer, was recently published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute in the fall of 2017 (Rothbard 2017). It contains nine full chapters of Rothbard’s planned book on the period as well as later published essays on material Rothbard wanted to discuss in the book. Chapter 9, “The National Civic Federation: Big Business Organized for Progressivism,” documents the cartelizing state and local reforms pushed by big business, big government, and court intellectuals in the early 20th century. In Chapter 10, of which only notes remain because it was unfortunately not written, Rothbard would have continued his analysis of local Progressive Era interventions by analyzing both their political and urban reforms. Some of his important insights were included in the published essays later in the book as well as in other writings not included (Rothbard 1962, 1974, 2011 [1978], 1995). Rothbard’s lecture series “The American Economy and the End of Laissez Faire: 1870 to World War II,” given at Brooklyn Polytechnic in 1986, followed the format of the unpublished manuscript of The Progressive Era and continued where Rothbard left off. Immediately after finishing with the material provided in Chapter 9, the lecture series moved into his notes on the political and local reforms of the era (Rothbard 1986). Using his published writings and lectures, this article will discuss what Rothbard would have written about in the tenth chapter of the book.

Keywords: Rothbard, The Progressive Era, Corruption, Urban Imperialism

JEL Classification: N12

Suggested Citation

Newman, Patrick, Taking the ‘Blank’ Out of Politics: Murray Rothbard on Political and Local Reform during the Progressive Era (July 13, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3213674 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3213674

Patrick Newman (Contact Author)

Florida Southern College ( email )

Lakeland, FL 33801
United States

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